October 27th, 2006

Enterprise Bridge

Hokay, soh...

(That bit of dialogue from End of the World is permanently stuck in my head.)

Many strange and wacky things are going on, not the least of which is I've finally seen something I work on at work get to a point where it's ready to go into production. I finished the BIOS for Cougar and blessed it as 1.0. Matt caught a problem that made OS-commanded restarts take forever under some circumstances (notably Windows,) and we got PXE network booting to work on any of the board's four ethernet ports. I had to develop a netboot server to test this. Naturally, that test boot environment runs Scorched Earth.

See, the config tool for the ethernet chips, and the BIOS flash tool are both DOS programs. We figured it would be useful to netboot FreeDOS, so our production staff could use them without having to deal with USB floppies or keychain drives, or whatever else might get lost or not-updated. Naturally, I had to add something frivolous to it. (I'm working on documenting the process of building a netbootable DOS image file. It's simple. I'll post it when I'm done.) I've not gotten the DOS networking stack to work yet, so I have not yet reached that nirvana of ridiculous things that shoudln't be--netbooting a net-capable image of an operating system that was never, ever supposed to grok networking.

The difficult bit is getting a netbootable Linux environment. Jamie Zawinski accomplished this once, for the diskless kiosks at the DNA Lounge. He explains his process better than anyone else, but his approach really doesn't work anymore. He based it with Red Hat 9, and the changes between there and Fedora Core 5 have become so significant that it won't work anymore. Most notably, FC5 uses udev, so the exported /dev directory contains nothing you can use. /sbin/init (which Fedora dynamically links!!!) looks for device nodes that aren't there, and chokes so hard it can't give you an error message. It just hangs. I have a Slackware 10.2 image installed elsewhere on my boot server, which uses none of this magic, so I'll be mapping out how to manage the read-only/read-write split I need for that configuration.

By the way, I've had FC5 installs working via netboot since the beginning. It's a huge, huge win. I need to write that up too. It's a process I strongly recommend for anyone that has to do a lot of installs. It's already been a hit with our production and support people. They don't have to run around borrowing USB DVD drives anymore to do an install. You just plug it in, pick the netinstall option, and go. We've got a kickstart config that works very well for us too. Start it and walk away.

Let's see... Eric went to Homecoming last weekend. He took a junior. A junior cheerleader. The mind boggles at that. They had a good time. Football's doing well, at least the JV and varsity are. The games we've lost, I can't argue with too much. We slaughtered Westview nicely last week. All four of my baseball players who were involved saw good playing time. The two at Poway (Cory and Joey) played defense and both logged tackles for a change. Over at Westview, Graig came out for the first time this year as a sophomore and played some cornerback (#26 black) and special teams. Kyle (#2 black) starts at tight end and long-snaps for punts. He finally ditched half the armor he wore last year on freshman. (Kyle had no visible bare skin last year--pads everywhere.) Westview's JV is respectable, hopefully they improve for next year on varsity, because their current varsity is so bad they could only compete against our freshmen. (Who finally won another game, 49-43, but nearly gave it away at the end.)

December's going to be busy... basketball accounts for literally half the days in the month. I've got to figure out when I can go home for Christmas. (It's our turn to get Nicole and Tim this year, so I can't skip.) I just found out Keith is coming here for a NAR function the 6th through the 8th. My HS AD is in Anaheim the 8th through the 12th for the national convention of such people. And I should probably squeeze in some time for shopping...